Derelict and vacant sites
Each local authority is responsible for dealing with derelict sites in its area. Under the Derelict Sites Act 1990, local authorities can force owners to clean up these sites. The Act allows local authorities to prosecute owners who do not comply with notices served, to purchase land compulsorily; and to carry out necessary work themselves and charge the owners for the cost.
Local authorities have similar powers as regards dangerous structures.
Under the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, each local authority is also required to compile a vacant sites register, starting from January 2017. This is a register of lands in the local authority’s area that are suitable for housing but are not coming forward for development. From January 2019 onwards, a vacant site levy will be charged on such sites. There is detailed guidance (pdf) on housing.gov.ie.
The Derelict Sites Act defines a derelict site as any land that “detracts, or is likely to detract, to a material degree from the amenity, character or appearance of land in the neighbourhood of the land in question because of”:
- Structures which are in a ruinous, derelict or dangerous condition, or
- The neglected, unsightly or objectionable condition of the land or of structures on it, or
- The presence, deposit or collection of litter, rubbish, debris or waste
Register of derelict sites
Each local authority must keep a register of all derelict sites in its area, containing the location of each derelict site, the name and address of the owner and details of any action the local authority has taken about the site. If the property is owned or occupied by a local authority itself, the register must contain details of what it is being used for and what the local authority intends to do with it.
The register must give details of the current market value of every site listed on it. This valuation is done by the local authority, which can authorise any qualified person to act on its behalf. The local authority enters details of the valuation into the register and serves a notice on the site’s owner – see ‘Statutory notices’ below.
If you are the owner, you have the right to appeal the valuation to the Valuation Tribunal within 28 days of receiving the notice.
The local authority must make the Derelict Sites Register available for public inspection. It can remove an entry from the Register when it is satisfied that the work that it has ordered has been carried out on the derelict site.
Derelict sites levy
If you are the owner of urban land that has been entered into the Derelict Sites Register, you must pay an annual levy to the local authority – see ‘Rates’ below. The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government can prescribe any area to be an urban area, as long as it is not part of a county or other borough.
If you do not pay the derelict sites levy within 2 months of receiving the demand and if you have not reached an agreement with the local authority, interest will be charged on the full amount at a rate of 1.25% a month or part of a month. The local authority can take you to court to recover this amount, if necessary.
If the site is removed from the Derelict Sites Register, the local authority will calculate the amount of levy that you owe, based on how many days are left in the financial year. It will then issue either a refund or a demand for payment.
Any change in the valuation of the land means that the amount of the derelict sites levy on that land will also change. If the value is decreased, the local authority will re-calculate the amount according to the new valuation and refund any excess that you may have paid. If the value of the property is increased, the local authority is entitled to demand the levy on the amount of the increase.
If the local authority is satisfied that you have plans to develop the property, and planning permission has been granted for this development, you can enter into a bond instead of paying the derelict sites levy. This bond is a guarantee that has been secured with a bank or insurance company, agreeing that all derelict sites levies due on the property will be paid if the planned scheme (or a similar scheme) is not carried out within 5 years.
If you are required to pay a vacant site levy under the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, you will not also have to pay a derelict sites levy on the same site.
If you are the owner or occupier of a derelict site, you are likely to receive several statutory notices from your local authority. The first is a notice informing you that your property has been added to the Derelict Sites Register. You will then get another notice to tell you what the local authority wants you to do to clean up your site. In some circumstances, a local authority may decide to purchase a derelict site compulsorily. You have the right to respond to any notice that the local authority sends you and to make an objection to the compulsory purchase of a site.
The local authority can buy a derelict site in its area, either by agreement with the owner or by compulsory purchase. It must advertise the details of any proposed compulsory purchase in the local newspaper and send a notice to the owner or occupier of the land, giving information about how and where to object to the purchase. If an objection is made, the local authority cannot buy the land without the consent of An Bord Pleanála.
If An Bord Pleanála approves the compulsory purchase and the local authority has dealt with any objections received, the local authority can buy the land, using a vesting order.
If you have any right to or interest in land that has been compulsorily acquired by a local authority, you can apply to it for compensation within 12 months of the vesting. The local authority will then pay you an amount of compensation equal to the value (if any) of the land. This value will be negotiated under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act 1919. If there is any money due to the local authority on the property (in the form of a derelict sites levy or a court order for payment), the local authority can subtract this from the compensation. If the amount that you owe on the property is more than the agreed compensation, no compensation will be paid.
Under the Derelict Sites Act 1990, it is an offence to:
- Remove, damage or deface a notice posted by the local authority regarding a derelict site.
- Fail to carry out the measures required by the local authority to prevent a property from being classed as derelict within an allotted time.
- Fail to notify the local authority of the transfer of land or interest in land (other than by will or on an intestacy) from one person to another. Both parties must notify the local authority in writing within 4 weeks of the transfer.
- Fail to notify the local authority of the transfer of land or interest in land by will or on an intestacy. The new owner must notify the local authority in writing within 6 months and the representative of the person under whose will or upon whose intestacy the transfer occurred must notify the local authority in writing within 2 months.
- Prevent an authorised person from entering or carrying out authorised business on the derelict site.
Anyone who commits an offence under this Act can be prosecuted by the local authority.
Derelict sites levy
The derelict sites levy amounts to 3% of the market value of the land concerned. The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government may prescribe a higher percentage, which cannot be more than 10% of the market value.
Fines are payable to the local authority for non-compliance with statutory notices about derelict sites and for failing to carry out work required by the local authority. The rates of fine were set in the Derelict Sites Act 1990 and have been increased in accordance with the Fines Act 2010. Read more about how fine rates are calculated.
On summary conviction for all offences: a fine not exceeding €2,500, also a fine not exceeding €500 for every day on which the offence continues and not exceeding €2,500, in total. (This figure does not include the original fine of €2,500 for committing the offence in the first place.) You could also be sentenced to imprisonment for up to 6 months. If the court decides, you could be subject to both a fine and imprisonment.
On conviction or indictment of failing to carry out the measures required by the local authority to prevent a property from being classed as derelict within an allotted time: a fine not exceeding €55,562.50, with a fine not exceeding €4,445 for every day the offence is continued, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years. If the court decides, you could be subject to both a fine and imprisonment.
Cost of work
The local authority can recover the cost of necessary work on a derelict site from its owner.